China wants its casino paradise to become tech Mecca

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The Chinese government plans to transform its largest casino den, Macau, into a regional technology hub, the South China Morning Post reported, citing technology industry executives and officials.

This comes as the Venetian Macao Convention and Exhibition Centre this week hosted a big technology-themed trade fair, which is expected to give rise to new industries and revitalize the regional economy.

The event’s website portrayed Macau as “the new centre of international technologies” to connect the Asia Pacific tech ecosystem with the rest of the world.

“The Guangdong-Macau in-depth cooperation zone in Hengqin has created a new opportunity for technology innovation and industry transformation of Macau,” said Zhang Yuzhuo, vice chairman of the China Association for Science and Technology.

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“It will supercharge the diversification of Macau’s economy and continuous prosperity,” he added.

Gambling in the former Portuguese colony has been legal since the 1850s, with Macau being dubbed the ‘Gambling capital of the world’ and the ‘Monte Carlo of the East’.

Data shows that the gambling industry contributed over half of the city’s US$54 billion GDP before the pandemic and generated 80% of the local government’s tax revenue. Last year’s 80% plunge in gambling revenue led to a 50% decline in GDP.

“Macau may have always been known for gambling and tourism, but the pandemic has hit the city hard. Macau has to diversify,” said the main host of the tech conference, Lu Gang, who is the director of the Macao Technology General Association. “Although it’s small in size, Macau is an international platform connecting the mainland to the world and can help Chinese companies venture abroad,” he added.

Beijing has always taken a hard stance on gambling at Macau’s casinos, viewing them as illicit capital drainage channels that undermine the nation’s financial stability and capital account controls. According to its plan, Macau should be encouraged to develop integrated circuits, new energy projects, and artificial intelligence (AI), among other tech sectors, and to establish a supply chain for microchips, from design to testing.

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